This post was last updated on May 27th, 2020 at 09:41 am
The tropical small island of Pulau Weh is just an hour’s boat ride away from Banda Aceh, the northernmost province of Sumatra. A jungle paradise surrounded by beautiful white beaches. The main reason to come to Pulau Weh is for the beaches and for snorkeling and diving. You can admire the most beautiful tropical fish, turtles, and coral reefs. When you arrive at Pantai Sumur Tiga beach on the east coast of the island, you’ll look out over huge swaying palm trees, a pearl-white beach, crystal clear water, hammocks, and Freddie’s funky beach bungalows. Welcome to paradise!
The most famous town on Pulau Weh is Sabang, an old fishing village with Dutch history. It is not that attractive to stay overnight in the town itself, but you will find a number of interesting sights in the area. For example, near Sabang you can visit the freshwater lake Danau Anak Laut and the Merapi volcano.
Diving on Pulau Weh
As mentioned, Pulau Weh is known as the diving Mecca of Sumatra. It is one of the best diving spots in the Indian Ocean and travelers from all over the world come to this island to admire the beautiful underwater world. If you go into the water, you have a chance to encounter moray eels, lionfish, and rays, but also colorful coral and sometimes even whale sharks.
With more than 20 dive sites around the island, there is always something to choose from, although most places are located around the towns of Iboih and Gapang. Both beginners and advanced divers have come to the right place, because there are a lot of diving schools where you can get your PADI.
Snorkeling on Pulau Weh
Pulau Weh is also a great destination if you prefer snorkeling over diving. Off the coast there are beautiful pieces of coral that you can swim to from the beach, but you can also join a tour to one of the surrounding islands. A must is, for example, Pulau Rubiah, which is located opposite Iboih. You can sail here by boat and snorkel among plenty of tropical fish.
This island has a few well-known beaches that attract the most tourists. These are Gapang, Pantai Sumur Tiga, and Iboih which are all in the northwest. Iboih is a beach where you will find palm trees and snow-white sand.
A little further on there are also bungalows built on the rocks, almost in the water. A wonderful place to spend the night. If you are looking for that wonderful tropical beach feeling, it is best to go to Pantai Sumur Tiga. Here you will find the most beautiful beaches.
Iboih beach is one of the most touristic places on the island, but fortunately not in a bad way. Here you will find nice, affordable bungalows on stilts at the edge of the turquoise sea, with a beautiful view of Pulau Rubiah. What more do you want? In 2015 we stayed here for a week and had a great time at Yulia’s Bungalows.
This year we went back and noticed that it was a lot busier than 5 years ago, especially with local tourists. Still, Iboih beach is still a super nice place to visit. When you arrive and follow the path to the left you will notice that the further you walk, the quieter it gets. Here, you will also find the nicest accommodations and one of the best eateries on the island: Mama Mias.
Sumur Tiga Beach
Another very nice place to stay is on Sumur Tiga beach. Here you will find beautiful beaches and a handful of nice accommodations. Travelers mainly come here to rest and to enjoy some more luxury. We stayed at Casa Nemo, a small-scale and very attractive resort, with a fantastic staff. Don’t forget to use their spa as it is truly fantastic. Sumur Tiga is not far from the largest city on the island, Sabang, and it’s near the airport.
Must-Do’s on Pulau Weh
- Snorkeling/diving: You really cannot leave Pulau Weh without seeing something of the underwater world, because it is one of the best diving/snorkeling spots in all of Southeast Asia.
- Rent a boat and visit Pulau Rubiah: Opposite Iboih beach is a beautiful island called Pulau Rubiah. You can snorkel beautifully around this island. If you are tempted to swim from Iboih to Rubiah… don’t do it! It seems very close, but appearances are deceptive 😉
- Rent a scooter and explore the island: A must-do if you ask us! Pulau Weh is quite large and there is a lot to see. Look for waterfalls, lakes, and hot springs. The easiest way to do this is on a scooter. Just don’t try to see everything in one day, because you will not succeed.
Nice Restaurants and Hotels
A visit to Casa Nemo Beach Resort on the Pantai Sumur Tiga beach should not be missed during your stay on Pulau Weh. It is located on a hill with palm trees and has a beautiful view of the clear blue ocean. Stay in one of the luxurious rattan bungalows with a private terrace and breathtaking view. Balqis, the owner, has created a special place on Pulau Weh with her husband. Her team mainly consists of single mothers whom she trains and gives English lessons while looking after the children.
Casa Nemo is a place where everyone can be themselves, where women can take off their headscarves, wear clothes that make them feel comfortable, talk openly about their feelings, and accept gay and lesbian people. Balqis has created a home away from home and that atmosphere can be felt immediately as soon as you step inside. If it is slightly above your budget, come and eat delicious fresh fish or taste homemade (from their own bakery) cheesecake and chat with the candid and friendly staff.
Freddies Santai Sumurtiga
Freddies Santai Samurtiga is on the same beach as Casa Nemo. You will stay in a tropical rattan bungalow on high poles on the beach. From the hammock on your private balcony you can dream away with the sound of the waves in the background. Wake up in time and peek through your window at the swaying palm leaves above the blue ocean and see the sky turn purple and orange. You won’t believe your eyes, it’s so beautiful!
At the northernmost tip of the island is Iboih village, especially popular for the beautiful coral that you can admire quite close to the coast. Here you will find a number of chill-out beach cafes and diving schools. If you want a nice cold beer or a good glass of wine, then you have to go a bit further to Bixio Cafe. This nice Italian restaurant and homestay is located between the ocean and the jungle. Relax in the hammocks between the mangrove trees with a cold drink in your hand. Luca and Eva, the friendly owners, make delicious traditional pasta, gnocchi, pizza, and delicious tiramisu!
TIP – You can find all available hotels, hostels, and guesthouses on Booking.com.
Religion on Pulau Weh
Pulau Weh is subject to Sharia law implemented by the local government of Banda Aceh ten years ago. Women are required to wear a headscarf and should not show bare body parts. You’ll see the women, often together, with pants and long-sleeved t-shirts going into the sea. Gambling and alcohol are forbidden, but because the companies are completely dependent on tourism, they don’t make a fuss if non-Muslims order a cold beer or wear a bikini on the beach.
It is remarkable that it often rains here. Not that this disturbs your holiday since you are often underwater here. In addition, the rain ensures that the interior region is always beautifully green. Of course, it doesn’t rain all day. These are the typical Asian showers that you encounter here.
TIP – Do you want to visit Pulau Weh? Make sure that you book at least the first night in your accommodation in advance. Pulau Weh is seen as one of the best dive sites in Southeast Asia so you will not be alone here!
Transport on Pulau Weh
If you have booked accommodation in advance, please ask if they can arrange transport from the port, Balohan, or from the airport to the accommodation itself. Chances are that this will be the cheapest way to get there. We did not do this and took a taxi for 100,000 IDR (around US$6.75) to Sumur Tiga, which turned out to be more than twice as expensive afterward. If you have no idea where you will stay, there is always the option to take a becak (scooter taxi) or minivan, but negotiate the price well if you do!
The best way to discover the island is by renting a scooter. The price is between 80,000 and 100,000 IDR (around US$5.40 to US$6.75) per day. The roads on Pulau Weh are pretty good, but there are a few hairpin bends, so be careful. We almost had a collision with a monkey near Monkey Forest, so you have been warned. If you prefer not to drive yourself, you can also drive around in a Becak. This is always a fun experience.
How to Get to Pulau Weh
Pulau Weh is relatively easy to reach compared to other islands, such as the Mentawai Islands or the Banyak islands. The fastest and most comfortable way is to fly directly to the capital Sabang with Garuda Airlines. There is a flight from Jakarta about 3-4 times a week, with a stop at Kuala Namu airport (Medan). As you probably expect, this is also the most expensive option. We lost around US$95 for a single trip from Jakarta. Prices start at around US$35-40 from Kuala Namu. This includes luggage and a snack. We think it is worth these prices because you save a lot of time.
A cheaper option is to fly to Banda Aceh and take the boat to Pulau Weh from there. A one-way trip Jakarta – Banda Aceh departs from Ulee Lhe port, which is about half an hour’s drive from the airport. You can book both a speedboat and a slower boat. You can find the departure times and prices below:
Ulee Lhe to Pulau Weh
Speedboat: Daily departures at 9:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. Price: 60,000-90,000 IDR. Duration: 45 minutes.
Slower boat: Mon, Tue, Thu, and Fri departure at 2:00 p.m. and Wed, Sat, and Sun at 11:00 a.m. and 4 p.m. Price: 19,000-37,000 IDR. Duration: 90 minutes.
Pulau Weh to Ulee Lhe
Speedboat: Daily departures at 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.
Slower boat: Daily at 8:00 a.m. and Wed, Sat, and Sun at 1:30 p.m.
Keep in mind that in bad weather the boats do not sail they change their schedule. Unfortunately, this happens regularly. If you have a flight from Banda Aceh to your next destination, be on the safe side and keep a close eye on the weather forecast and/or take the boat to the mainland a day earlier just to be sure.